3 July 2010
Fred and I woke up on our second day on the Dingle Way to light rain and a thick blanket of mist over the surrounding hills.
*So this is how it starts* I thought as I packed up my tent, which was damp but thankfully not soaked. I knew that the Dingle Way has a soggy reputation and I also knew that the forecast called for rain.
Fred and I ate a quick breakfast and then headed off past the gas station, down hill and over a small river before heading back Up into farmland. The stretch of trail from Lispole to Dingle was mainly on narrow country lanes, with hedges built up so high that if for some reason we needed to get out of the way of any cars or machinery hurtling past us, we would be unable to. So we prayed for deliverance from fast-moving vehicles. Luckily we were not squashed but did get to witness some creative cow-hearding.
After the cow-hearding-traffic jam we followed the trail Up and over our first turnstiles through some fields. Here, we were safe from traffic but eyed the cows nervously and kept our distance. The trail wound on through the fields until there wasn't any more Up. We crossed a ravine and then started working on some Dingle Way Down through sheep fields and over big rocks. We spotted some day hikers and puffed up our chests with a little bit of un-deserved superiority. We watched herds sheep on the far hills; farmers on four-wheelers and their dogs (though we couldn't see the dogs, we could see their work). The herds were fuzzy amoebas moving slowly across the hills, sending out pseudopods hither and thither and then being driven back.
For about 2 miles we could spot the town of Dingle, but like the bedroom door in Poltergeist, the more we walked it seemed the further it got away. It was cold and windy and I was hungry. Fred stopped on the side of the road to tend to his swollen blistery feet. I watched a farmer herd sheep in the pasture across the road, but my stomach was growling and would not be ignored. Plus, it was windy and I was cold. I may or may not have threatened to leave Fred behind and started stomping loudly downhill toward Dingle. Empathy is not one of my strongest character traits sometimes I am embarrassed to admit.
When we made it to Dingle Fred was still speaking to me. We walked through town, which looks exactly like every other tourist town on the face of the earth, only this one is on a steep hill. We walked down a street, didn't find anything to eat that fit our appetite or budget and then began walking back up hill. My feet and Fred's feet were not pleased with the arrangement and our appetites conceded to eat at wherever we landed next.
We ended up in a generic Irish pub. We slunk in around the doorjamb and slid into the first table we found. We shoved our packs over along the bench and hoped that our stench wouldn't be considered a deal breaker. It was only day two but we'd managed to work up quite an aroma between the mist, the farmland and my synthetic clothing which started the trail with a reasonable amount of funk. Lamb stew and half pints of Guinness fixed all that ailed us (except Fred's blisters, nothing could fix that).
We paid homage to Fungie the dolphin and followed the road out of town. When we got to Ventry two miles later, Fred was done for the day but it was only about 3--too early to stop. Because we were counting on the hospitality of strangers to find camping sites, it made sense to spend as little time as possible actually camping. We bought a loaf of soda bread and cheese at the post office there at the cross-road and hopped a low stone fence into an empty field. Leaning against the fence with our backs to the road, I checked the map. With a handful of bread in my mouth I managed to convince Fred that it would be an easy mile down the beach to the next town. He agreed, only barely and we saddled up and headed out, slowly.
Ventry Bay was flat and easy in the late afternoon. We had to wade through about 100 yards of somewhat squishy flotsam (kelp and some unidentifiable flora and fauna in mat form) to get down to the hard sand. There were lots of folks out on the beach with their incredibly well behaved dogs and it was getting chilly.
The trail left the beach and took us through the dunes and over several streams. We were both extremely tired and almost called it quits in a flat spot next to a creek, but we were nervous about breaking some land use laws so we pressed on. The trail lead up to a road. Fred was so determined to drop his billion pound pack for the night that, uncharacteristically of him, he asked the first person we passed if they knew anywhere we could camp.
The woman explained that we could use her backyard and that we should just walk on up the road and set up camp. Her husband may ask us what we were doing but we were to tell him that she had given us permission. Her accent was so thick, now that we were West of Dingle, we could only understand about every third word.
We found nice flat ground for camping, crawled into our tents and called it a night.